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Read My Book: Harold Rhenisch on The Spoken World

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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Filed under: Read My Book

I call my book “The Spoken World” because it’s a talk between friends. My friend Robin Skelton and I talked for decades, in person in his big sprawling house full of paintings and magic, and in the poetic forms he stole from me and the ones I stole from him. We talked for so long that the talk is everything and has continued long after his death. “If I can’t hear the music in a poem,” he said, “I can’t trust it. It’s not finished.” These poems are all about music. They came out as if I was playing my heart and my ribs like a piano propped up in a wooden longboat somewhere out in the Atlantic. Robin and I didn’t start this conversation. It started a thousand years ago, when the language of the North Atlantic was Old Norse and every word was alive. The way people have talked those words between each other has given us the English language now, and that language is a tool for speaking with the world. This is my most personal book of poems ever. It is about fatherhood, brotherhood, and friendship. It’s about love and about the powerful relationship between teachers and their students. It took me ten years of revisions to discover that at some indefinable point the student becomes the teacher and has the task of passing the conversation on. The conversation is how we humans sustain each other and the world with words. It’s rather improbable, of course, but it works, because when the dark comes, we are each other’s light. The word for that is love, in all its complexity. Through children, and poetry, we keep on speaking the world together. I hope that charm never breaks. 

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